In a city that’s best known for jorts, it’s hard to believe that five days of the calendar year are filled with flashing lights, high heels and hot fashion — with minimal denim in sight.
At Gainesville Fashion Week’s Saturday runway shows, about 300 fashion fans and style supporters dressed to impress at Villa East to watch as seven designers showcased their creations on the catwalk.
Upon walking into the building, it was easy to tell that the staff of Gainesville Fashion Week put a lot of effort into their fifth season. The bright lights that framed the stage were shining on the white runway as attendees grabbed drinks and snagged spots to watch the show while West Palm Beach rapper Will Brennan entertained.
Like any real fashion show, the front row seated the celebrities — or as well-known as one can get living in a town that revolves around sports teams. Unfortunately, Anna Wintour wasn’t present, but Gator basketball players (and apparent fashionistos) Patric Young and Will Yeguete were.
Young wore a long-sleeved white Polo shirt with matching white-framed sunglasses that didn’t leave his face all night, and Yeguete looked chic in a grey short-sleeved button up with thick black-rimmed glasses with clear lenses. Both sported shiny silver blinged-out, large-faced watches on their left wrists as oohs and aahs came from spectators shocked at their presence.
After everyone settled into the room, first up was AJNEL designs, whose collection reflected a modern Victorian style with high necklines and collars, ruffled details and draped construction. A mix of classic whites and golds were paired with bold floral prints in a cohesive collection that left the audience with a taste for more.
Whitley Denise’s 14-look show followed, opening with an aqua long-sleeved kimono style jacket paired with a black bikini top, leopard headwrap, floral fishnet tights and, dare I say it — a jort. Despite adding to the stigma that is Gainesville fashion, the online vintage retailer showed off a collection that was fun and bold, but also classic and wearable — shoulder pads and all.
Sabor Latino brought the heat with a burlesque-inspired routine that was perfectly choreographed for the runway. Dancers moved and grooved effortlessly around each other on a stage that was no wider than 4 feet, impressing and entertaining the audience with their energy.
Off the high of Sabor Latino’s performance came Zella Machado Swimwear. With 23 looks, Bruna Santana didn’t fool around when it came to accentuating assets with her bathing suit line. Everyone took notice of the lack of fabric, including Young and Yeguete, who seemed to be on booty patrol, staring and commenting to each other throughout the show.
Regardless of the scandalous sizes of some of the pieces, each suit was incredibly fun and flirty with lots of neon colors, perfect for the Gator girls and guys who would wear them. An emerald-green, high-waisted two-piece suit stole the show for me (and if the designer is reading this, I need that bathing suit now) with thin straps along the hips, matching the strap detailing across the chest of the bandeau top.
Following the bright bathing suit line was Leemari Designs. The looks being sent down the runway weren’t exactly high-fashion. Loose-fitting tank tops and T-shirts with phrases like “Live to Inspire” and “Lose a Dream, Lose a Life” were paired with leggings and shorts. Though I appreciate the inspirational message the designers have, the collection was bland and left me bored, which didn’t transition well to the intermission that followed.
During the break between runway shows, musical act Pop Glow performed as guests refueled with more drinks from the bar. Over the chatter of attendees, the pop-electronic group performed songs that sounded as if Metro Station and Daft Punk had a musical love child. Even though no one was paying attention, the boys tried to maintain high energy in the room until the next designer took the stage.
Jacquelyn Brooks Designs
followed the intermission, starting her show with school spirit by playing the infamous Gator chomp music matched with fun orange and blue gameday dresses on the catwalk. After the dresses came her ready-to-wear and formal wear looks, which were filled with animal prints, bright pops of color and an abundance of texture.
After watching her show, I could see why Brooks was contacted by both “Project Runway” and “Fashion Star.” Her use of shiny golds with bright pops of red was perfectly paired with neutral colors, which kept her collection exciting, but not too over-the-top in sharply constructed silhouettes.
Designs from Southern Frock
followed with feminine sundresses and colorful cover-ups. The pieces were mostly solid colors, but the fabric used had a subtle coral pattern, which really added to the beachy feeling of the collection.
Anticipation built in the crowd as DJ Klarc Shepard spun music that had the whole room dancing. The crowd almost got an impromptu dance performance from Gator basketball players Young and Yeguete, until co-hosts Maghan McDowell, Insite Gainesville editor, and Tiffany Williams, Gainesville Fashion Week producer, returned to the stage to introduce headlining designer, Mikho Resort.
Only one word can be used to sum up the final designs to grace the runway: sexy. The collection was previewed by a short film that gave the audience a taste of the raw and racy resortwear to come. Everyone felt the room get a few degrees hotter as topless guys in short shorts and females in sexy bikinis had the whole room cheering.
Tank tops with provocative sayings like “Occupy My Pants” and “Bad Ass Mother F—ker” topped the few models who were given coverups. As the models approached the end of the runway, they radiated heat as they struck flirtatious poses for the cameras.
The spicy final runway show ended the night with a bang. As the audience left Villa East ready to continue the fun at Sharab Lounge for the afterparty, I left with the desire to go shopping — a true sign of a successful fashion event.
Local designer Jacquelyn Brooks also showed off her vintage designs on Saturday.